Since one of my writing goals was to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.
Back in 2020 I decided to be a little more systematic about my reading plans. I started putting an actual to-read pile to stack on the nightstand and limited the stack to five books, which seemed doable for the month. Occasionally comics and graphic novels or roleplaying games jump the queue, but I typically tried to get through the pile in the order I stacked them. I also used this strategy to try and diversify my reading. The goal was for each to-read pile to contain at least one book by a BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+ author, one book by a woman, one non-fiction book, and one book by an author I know personally.
Creating the piles is getting a little trickier, as I’m having a bit of trouble filling all of my criteria from stack to stack from my own shelves, and I’m never sure when a library book will arrive. Despite all of the library reading I’ve been doing I still plan on trying to read through the books on my own shelves as much as possible.
Tiny Cthulhu by Alan Bahr: I love the Tiny D6 rules set. I backed this on Kickstarter and I think it’ll be a fun way to run a cosmic horror game. Lots of fun microsettings to choose from too, if you need some ideas of how to get a game started.
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton: A reread because I watched Jurassic World again recently and then found this in a local little free library. It held up pretty well. I’m surprised how different and yet the same Book Malcolm is from Movie Malcolm. Crichton is not great at evoking character in other instances, but this still remains a pretty good thriller.
Hench by Natalie ZinaWalschots: Great voice on this one, absolutely adored the story and the narrator. Hench deconstructs a lot of superhero tropes without ever seem to wink at the reader saying “I’m writing a serious book about superheroes” (which I hate). Lots to think about in what the aftermath of a superhero “victory” would look like. Highly recommended!
Death Bee Comes Her by Nancy Coco: A cozy mystery with a bee and honey theme. It was fun, but I didn’t really connect with any of the characters so I probably won’t continue with the series.
Once & Future Volume 2: Old English by Keiron Gillen, Dan Mora, and Tamra Bonvillain: An excellent follow up to the first volume, with Beowulf and Grendel infiltrating the modern take on Arthurian legend. Fun story with beautiful art and brilliant colours. Looking forward to reading volume 3!
Witch Please by Ann Aguirre: So much fun! I’m really looking forward to reading the next installment of the series. Interesting worldbuilding, great characters, and a super steamy romance.
The Virago Book of Erotic Myths and Legends by Shahrukh Husain: I’ve had this on my mythology reference shelves for years but never actually cracked it until now. Unfortunately it read more like a text book to me. I enjoyed a few pieces I read, but not enough to finish the book.
Dungeons & Dragons The Wild Beyond the Witchlight: Picked up on a whim. Probably not my style as a DM, but it’s full of gorgeous whimsical art, and it was cool to see some characters from the D&D cartoon and toy line turn up.
Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala: A fun cozy mystery with a restaurant theme. Fast paced and lots of great family moments. Looking forward to reading the next one.
The Outsider by Stephen King: I haven’t read a “new” Stephen King in years. This one was a little slow out of the gate, and took a while to get to the supernatural in a direct way, but that is typical of what I remember from King. I’m glad I stuck with it, a good story with memorable characters. Might try some more of King’s newer work again down the road because of enjoying this read.
I got through my September stack late in the month, but still early enough that I wanted to build a bit of a spooky themed pile for my next to-read selections. I also had a bunch of graphic novels arrive from the library, enough to make a stack of their own.
Swords of Sorrow by Gail Simone, Emma Bebby, Marguerite Bennet, Nancy A. Collins, Mikki Kendall, Leah Moore, Mairghread Scott, Erica Schultz, G. Willow Wilson, Sergio Davila, Dave Acosta, Mirka Andolfo, Ronilson Freire, Francesco Manna, Rod Rodolfo, Noah Salonga, Crizam Zamora: This collection includes the Swords of Sorrow, Vampirella & Jennifer Blood, Dejah Thoris & Irene Adler, Red Sonja & Jungle Girl limited series and the Masquerade & Kato, Black Sparrow & Lady Zorro, Pantha & Jane Porter, Miss Fury & Lady Rawhide one shots. The entire crossover was spearheaded by Gail Simone, whose work I quite enjoy. Because there was so many different artists and writers working on the project it was a little uneven to me at times, but by and large was pretty fun. Outside of the main Swords of Sorrow mini series, I enjoyed Marguerite Bennet and Mirka Andolfo’s work on Red Sonja & Jungle Girl the most, but I’ve always been a sucker for a good Red Sonja story.
Star Wars Volume 1 The Destiny Path by Charles Soule, Jesus Saiz: Charles Soule’s Star Wars work has always been a lot of fun. I’ve loved Jesus Saiz’s art for a long time too. He does a great job of capturing the main characters’ likenesses without making the art seem too stiff and photo referenced. Takes place in the aftermath of The Empire Strikes Back. Looking forward to reading more.
Star Wars Darth Vader Vol. 1 Dark Heart of the Sith by Greg Pak, Raffaele Ienco: The Vader titles have always been a highlight of Marvel’s Star Wars line, this one is no exception. I liked seeing the callbacks to the prequel trilogy, and a focus on Amidala.
The Black Ghost Season 1 Hard Revolution by Alex Segura, Monica Gallagher, George Kambadais: A really fun pulp hero inspired street-level crimefighter book. Great art, and a complicated heroine. I hope there’s another volume soon.
A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny: Returning for my annual reread. I love this book so much. Every year I find something new when I reread it. Once again I chose the read one chapter a day each day in October tactic rather than reading the entire book in a rush. I’m not sure which way of reading the novel I prefer, maybe next year I’ll try reading the book in as few sittings as possible, rather than stretching it out over the month.
Since one of my writing goals for 2020 was also to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read in 2020 to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.
I’ve decided to be a little more systematic about my reading plans. Now I’m pulling out an actual to-read pile to stack on the nightstand. I’m limiting the stack to five books, which seems doable for the month, even though odds are I won’t get through them all each month. Occasionally comics and graphic novels or roleplaying games might jump the queue, but I’m trying to get through the pile in order I stack them. The first time I did this, I basically grabbed the first five shinys to catch my eye, but for my next stack, I plan on adding some criteria to diversify my reading a bit. My intention is for each to-read pile to contain at least one book by a BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+ author, one book by a woman, one non-fiction book, and one book by an author I know personally (I’ve accumulated a lot of these over the years, and I’ve been a bit slower to get to many of them than I’d like. Sorry, friends!).
Here’s the to-read stack for October!
You may notice there’s six books instead of my usual five, but I’ve reread A Night in the Lonesome October a chapter a night in October for the last several years, and 2020 isn’t taking that away from me. You may also notice a CZP title in there, and while I’ve severed ties with them, I purchased this before that went down and I don’t want to punish the author. David Demchuck got the rights back to the book, and I believe there’s a new edition pending, so check that one out if it intrigues, and support another author who was taken advantage of by their publisher.
Atomic Robo Volume 2: Atomic Robo and the Dogs of War by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, and Jeff Powell: Continuing my Atomic Robo reread. Most of this one takes place during World War II, but there are “B” stories included that happen throughout Robo’s career.
Atomic Robo Volume 3: Atomic Robo and the Shadow from Beyond Time by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, and Jeff Powell: Next on my Atomic Robo reread. Now there’s some cosmic horror! H.P. Lovecraft makes an appearance along with Charles Fort, but my favourite cameo belongs to Carl Sagan. Reading the “B” stories reminds me of another similarity I’ve noticed between Hellboy and Atomic Robo for me, and that is, I also vastly prefer Robo drawn by Scott Wegener. Something in the expressions just never feels right otherwise.
Atomic Robo Volume 4: Atomic Robo and Other Strangeness by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, Jeff Powell, and Lee Black: An anthology of one shots, this volume features the gloriously wacky Doctor Dinosaur! I fucking love Doctor Dinosaur.
Atomic Robo Volume 5: Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, Jeff Powell, and Lee Black: A tale of Robo’s early days with lots of pulp hero inspiration.
Atomic Robo Volume 6: The Ghost of Station X by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, Jeff Powell, and Lee Black: A missing building, an assassination attempt, and Alan Turing make Atomic Robo public enemy number one.
Atomic Robo Volume 7: The Flying She-Devils of the Pacific by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, Jeff Powell, and Lee Black: Another tale of Robo’s past, set in the post-WWII Pacific Theatre area. Lots of fun! I have a bunch more Atomic Robo I could read, but this was the point were I started buying it in single issues, and I don’t feel like hauling out the comic long boxes.
Leave it to Chance Book One: Shaman’s Rain by James Robinson and Paul Smith, with Jeremy Cox: I’ve loved a lot of Robinson’s work over the years and Paul Smith illustrated my all-time favourite issue of Uncanny X-Men back in the day, as well as collaborating with Robinson on The Golden Age (one of my old favourite superhero graphic novels, which will probably end up on the reread pile soonish). Lots of fun concepts that didn’t necessarily age well. I enjoyed revisiting this volume, but when I tried to continue on with Book Two, I quickly lost interest. I think I’ll be donating this part of my collection.
Saga Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: Another graphic novel reread. I still love this series so much. Staples’ designs are as striking as ever and I love the relatively simple idea of star-crossed lovers just trying to get by in a galaxy at war. Also, rereading it, Hazel’s narration and the foreshadowing embedded within it hit so much harder. I both want, and do not want a Lying Cat of my own.
Saga Volume Two by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: Briefly continuing my reread, as after this point I started buying the series in monthly issues, and as with Atomic Robo, didn’t feel like hauling out the long boxes.
Trick or Treat Murder by Leslie Meier: From a Halloween Murder omnibus. Cozy mysteries aren’t my typical reads, but I found I needed some lighter fare than expected this month. It was fun. Arson in small historic town leads to murder. Interesting characters, but as I was mostly in it for fun Halloween content, I likely won’t dive too deeply into the rest of the series, which is substantial.
Invincible Ultimate Collection Volume One by Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker, Ryan Ottley, and Bill Crabtree: When this book came out it quickly became one of my favourite superhero books. I also enjoy it far more than the other property Kirkman is probably better known for, The Walking Dead. Teen hero Invincible is the son of the world’s greatest hero, Omni-Man, and once his powers kick in he starts getting his feet wet in the family business. Ryan Ottley takes over art duties from co-creator and original artist Walker halfway through, and ends up being a perfect fit for the series. This volume’s shocking conclusion upends what the reader thinks the story’s dynamic will be, and reverberates throughout the rest of the series (at least as much as I’ve read). I haven’t read through it in ages, the appearance of the trailer for the upcoming animated series probably thrust it back into my mind. I still really dig this series, with one caveat, and that is the characters occasionally use “gay” or the r-word as a pejorative, in the guise of friends joking around with each other (particularly when Invincible carries a male friend while flying, which becomes a running gag). I remember both words being used that way more commonly when the series was being published, and it definitely dates the dialogue and struck me every time I encountered it going forward in my reread.
Invincible Ultimate Collection Volume Two by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Bill Crabtree: Another reread. Invincible deals with the fallout of the revelation of his father’s true nature, as well as graduating from high school, and ends up creating a new arch enemy.
Invincible Ultimate Collection Volume Three by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Bill Crabtree: Invincible discovers some unexpected family and a lot of long running subplots come to a head in this volume. Kirkman’s pacing on this series is just immaculate, and Ottley’s art is as good as ever.
Invincible Ultimate Collection Volume Four by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Bill Crabtree: This was the end of my Invincible collection, and so the end of my reread. Despite my minor issues with some dated dialogue, I really enjoy the world of Invincible, and I think I’ll try and track down the next volume or two, which I don’t think I ever read, and keep going with the series. The series accomplishes a lot of what I loved in Chris Claremont’s epic Uncanny X-Men run from my formative comic-reading years.
Nextwave Agents of H.A.T.E Volume One: This is What They Want by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen: This used to be one of my favourite series, and Warren Ellis used to be one of my favourite writers (in another life I won an award from his publisher for promoting his debut novel) but after revelations of Ellis’s toxic behavior, I didn’t want to keep his work on my shelves. I decided to give Nextwave a quick reread before it hit the donate pile, and while I’m kind of sorry to see it go (as it contains another of my favourite single comic panels, and I love the character of Elsa Bloodstone, and Ellis’s particular take on Machine Man), but also happy to have it gone. I decided not to bother with reading the second volume in the series.
Wicked Witch Murder by Leslie Meier: The second book in the Halloween Murder omnibus. Enjoyed the first enough to keep going, but I know I’m in it for the Halloween-y content, so I’m unlikely to dive much deeper into the Lucy Stone series, unless Meier has more Halloween books in her catalogue (pretty sure she does).
Clan Destine Classic by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer: Another graphic novel reread. This one has the first eight issues of the comic that Davis and Farmer worked on (the less said about what came after, the better) and a miniseries that teams up the Clan Destine with the X-Men. Davis is still hands down my favourite superhero artist. The X-Men team up didn’t hold up as well as I’d hoped though, largely because I’ve moved on from the X-Men in recent years.
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter: So lush. I wish the print were larger, but the small print made me take more care with Carter’s perfect sentences. Fairy tale reimaginings include Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast. I didn’t care for Puss in Boots, the only story I didn’t love in the collection, actually. One of my issues with single author collections is that’s not how I tend to consume short stories. I read far more anthologies than collections, and stories that I find online. My other issue with this book, the print…so tiny on my aging eyes, which to be fair, is hardly Carter’s fault, but it made it difficult to digest her prose at times.
Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell by Paul Dini and Joe Quinones: Another reread. Zatanna is probably my favourite character in the DC universe, and Paul Dini writes her so well. Dini was also one of my favourite writers on Batman: The Animated Series. Still fun. Dini’s voice is great for the two main characters. Quinones’ art nails facial expressions and reactions better than action moments in my opinion, but was pretty well suited to the story.
The Bone Mother by David Demchuk: Most of my experience with this collection of eastern European-inspired stories has been hearing the author read from the book at various events and conventions. This has the interesting effect of me hearing Demchuk’s voice in my head while I read the book. The Bone Mother was full of wonderful bite-sized tales of terror. Highly recommend it.
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: A Mexican narco vampire novel. Moreno-Garcia’s a fantastic writer, and every time I’ve read one of her books, it’s ended up on my favourite books of the year list. Somehow, I was expecting something different from this one, not sure what, exactly, but I loved it in spite of my initial expectations not being met. Great characters, and a really interesting take on vampire lore. Especially loved Moreno-Garcia’s portrayal of Mexico City.
A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny: One of my favourite books, and one I’ve reread almost every year since I finally tracked down a copy of my own (it was out of print for far too long). The novel unfolds over the month of October and each chapter covers a single day as Jack the Ripper’s faithful dog Snuff tries to help prevent the rise of the Elder Gods in a game of Openers and Closers. Sometimes I’ve read the novel all in a burst, and that was how I first consumed it (it’s a pretty quick read), but for the last several runs at the book, I’ve read it a chapter a night over the month of October, and I find that’s how I best enjoy it. Already looking forward to next October’s reread!
Zatanna the Mistress of Magic Volume One by Paul Dini, Stephane Roux, Chad Hardin, and Jesus Saiz: A reread. I have all the individual issues of this series, but I’m not sure if they were ever all collected. As I stated above, I love Dini’s take on Zatanna. Jesus Saiz delivered my favourite art of the collection, pity they were only on board for a single issue. Stephane Roux’s pencils capture the spirit of the character excellently as well.
So my reading went a little of stack this month. There was a lot going on down Thunder Road Way, and so I sought some comfort in rereading old graphic novels. When I moved I decided to limit my graphic novels to one shelf (in a past age, at their height, I had almost two full bookcases in my collection but I realized I only ever reread the same stack of them). It was good in a way, as a few things I’ve been hanging onto for years without actually enjoying them are now free to be enjoyed by other readers, and no longer cluttering my shelves, while other series have reminded me that I’ve been meaning to get caught up for ages, but didn’t because of space limitations.
Welcome to the last stop on The Violet Fox Blog Tour! As I talk about mythology with some regularity around these parts, when I agreed to host a blog by YA author Clare C. Marshall, I asked her to talk about the mythological inspirations for her novel, and here’s what she had to say:
The creation of Marlenia, the world of The Violet Fox, boils down to one element:
I’m particularly fond of names, especially unusual ones. My protagonist’s name is Kiera (alternate spelling: Ciara) and it’s an Irish name meaning “dark one.” Kiera isn’t particularly dark but she does have a temper. Her love interest’s name is Keegan, which is an Irish surname. I chose these names back when The Violet Fox was about twenty pages of loose leaf in a writing binder in elementary school.
When I revisited the manuscript and expanded the story, I realized that I really liked these names and there was no way I was going to change them. Meaning, I would grow the world and its mythology from the names. But because the land of Marlenia has four provinces, I wanted to give them each a distinct culture. The events in The Violet Fox are set in Western Marlenia, where Keegan and Kiera are from, and thus that province is Irish/Scottish/English inspired.
Not only did I grow the culture from the names, but also the religion. The people of Marlenia live under what I like to call a “lapsed theocracy.” Their main ruler is the Holy One, and he presides over all four provinces of Marlenia from his seat in Western Marlenia. “The Holy One” was another artifact from my elementary school manuscript. I didn’t write it with the intention of having a religious monarchy–it just sounded cool to my nine- or ten-year-old self and was different than “king” or “queen” or any of your other standard ruler monikers. But again, I realized that if I wanted to keep the Holy One as a title, I had to work it into the culture.
So, under the intense focus of many energy drinks, I drew up a document that contains a basic history of the religion and culture of Marlenia. Marlenians worship a man-god named Dashiell, who supposedly lived and ruled thousands of years ago, and affected the lives of everyone with his god-like powers. Once, religion was strong in the land of Marlenia, but over the past couple of generations, the Marlenians have become more distant from their faith. The Holy One supposedly speaks the will of Dashiell, but because the people of Marlenia don’t care as much about Dashiell anymore, this lessens the influence of the monarchy. This ties in with the unrest created by the Freetors (the people who are forced to live underground).
The Freetors, originally, didn’t have any religion, or idols. But as I completed the second draft of the manuscript, I realized that they needed something, someone to look up to, someone that inspires them to continue fighting for freedom on the surface. So, Alastar the Hero was born. Two hundred years before the events in The Violet Fox, a man with magical powers beyond human comprehension sparked a rebellion against the monarchy. The Holy One saw this as a threat to Dashiell and the religion created around him, and fought back.
It was actually a lot of fun to create Alastar the Hero. While the Freetors look up to him as a inspiration, he’s become a legend in the mythology of the world. Like most legends, he has some bizarre stories that may or may not be true. One of these such stories has become the basis for The Silver Spear, the sequel to The Violet Fox. It just goes to show that a story mechanic doesn’t have to be mechanical–it can bring new life to your manuscript in ways you never thought possible.
Drawing mythology and culture from names is not the normal way to do things: it’s just a challenge I put upon myself because I wanted to salvage what details I could from the original manuscript. When creating mythology or culture for your own world, you can draw it from all kinds of sources, from existing ancient mythology, to a story that resonates with you, to an event that happened just yesterday. You just have to go with what feels right.
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Clare Marshall grew up in rural Nova Scotia with very little television and dial up internet, and yet, she turned out okay. She has a combined honours degree in journalism and psychology from the University of King’s College, and is a graduate from Humber College’s Creative Book Publishing Program. She is a freelance editor, designer and website manager, and enjoys publishing books through her publishing imprint, Faery Ink Press. When she’s not writing, she enjoys playing the fiddle and making silly noises at cats.